Should You Put Food In Cosmetics On A Hungry Planet?

Should You Put Food In Cosmetics On A Hungry Planet?
8 billion people is a lot of dinners

Should food ingredients be used in cosmetics when the planet is already straining to feed nearly 8 billion people? This was the question posed by The Beauty Botanist, aka Jennifer Hirsch at a joint meeting of the Society of Cosmetic Sceintists and the Brisish Society of Perfumers last night.

It’s a good question, though not one you might have expected to be raised by someone whose business is advising cosmetic companies on how to use plants in their products.

It is hard not to conclude that it really is a bit of a poor idea of priorities that has wealthy people in one part of the world putting not just food ingredients, but often organically certified food ingredients, onto their skin where it can’t possibly make any contribution to their diet. Cosmetic companies compete with food producers to buy up these ingredients so increasing the price of food for poor people.

But sympathetic as I am to this general idea, I think there is another way of looking at things.  People aren’t really hungry because there is no food.  They are hungry because they have no money.  Solving that one is a whole other subject and one which is a bit beyond my pay grade as a beauty science blogger.  I think no matter how else we feel, we are always going to want to make ourselves look better.  The starving are not going to be fed by anyone giving up a few plant extracts in their conditioner.   The world is far from perfect, and it won’t get better by being puritanical.

4 thoughts on “Should You Put Food In Cosmetics On A Hungry Planet?”

  1. I appreciate how you often bring environmental issues forward in your blog. I have the same understanding that the amount of the food in the world is not as much the problem as how to distribute it evenly. Plus I think majority of food ingredients used in cosmetics are usually quite generic, so it’s unlikely there’s gonna be scarce for food purposes. I’m more bothered about importing all kind of exotic and rare commodities from vulnerable areas as ‘super food’. Like you didn’t have perfectly good and healthy food more than enough plus one of the longest life expectancy in the world. One of the most known is the so-called “quinoa catastrophe”, where the rising demand for super-grain quinoa in western world tripled prices so poor Bolivian people can’t afford their traditional, nutritious food anymore. This has resulted in malnutrition, turning diverse cultivation to monoculture and bloody disputes over land.

  2. There is also the issue of deforestation and endangering wildlife habitats in order to produce these high-demand products – avocados from Mexico, coconuts from the Caribbean, shea butter from West Africa, argan oil from Morrocco, etc. Even domestically grown almonds require huge amounts of water. A quandary for which I have no answer.

  3. Animal agriculture contributes a huge amount to world hunger. Feeding crops to animals instead of humans is a bigger issue. So yes, avoiding food ingredients in cosmetics isn’t going to solve world hunger…

  4. I stand by your viewpoint that the use of food in beauty products doesn’t solve the root of the food waste/shortage issue. But from a sustainability standpoint, do you think that being more conservative and limiting food waste and the use of food in beauty products would set a positive precedent and mitigate potential sustainability or food shortage issues in the future? Couldn’t the beauty industry do better to move away from using food products?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A newsletter for personal care business professionals

Subscribe to know what is going on.